Matter adjourned as prosecution could not provide proper documentation
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former Urban Renewal Deputy Director Michelle Reckley and three other defendants, who police accused of money laundering and fraud, could not be arraigned when brought before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt yesterday as the prosecution was unable to present the court with proper documentation, namely court dockets with a named complainant.
Reckley, Stefanie Collie, Kylon Vincent and Christopher Symonette were brought to court in cuffs shortly after 5:00 p.m.
A crowd of supporters, including former Prime Minister Perry Christie, and his wife, Bernadette, awaited the defendants’ arrival and sat in court during the proceedings.
At the onset, the prosecution indicated to the judge that there was a logistical challenge in producing the court dockets.
Ferguson-Pratt asked how was she to proceed.
Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, who appeared for Symonette, said if the prosecution decided to proceed the defense would ask for the court to quash the matter as there were no witnesses listed, which he argued was not compliant with the Criminal Procedure Code.
He said, “Maybe they ought to figure out who gave them the story to cause them to charge these people…”
Ferguson-Pratt said in absence of a named complainant the defendants were not “properly before the court” and asked police prosecutor ASP Barry Miller to advise her on what basis the matter was before the court.
Miller acknowledged that the defendants, in the absence of a named witness or complainant, could not be “technically before the courts”, accepting that in accordance with the Criminal Prosecute Code there must be a witness as it relates to any charge.
The judge also took exception to the time in which the prosecution brought the matter to court.
She said it was “grossly unfair” to her staff, who were in court before 9:00 a.m. to have to process administration documents after 5:00 p.m. as she did not have the jurisdiction to grant bail given the charges before her.
Munroe also claimed that authorities “whisked” Reckley and Collie away from the Central Police Station in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and transported them to New Providence, while their attorney Carlson Shurland, QC, was still at the station on that island.
As it relates to Symonette, Munroe said his client met with police on a number of occasions over the last two to three months at their request and he was unaware that his client had been charged yesterday morning.
“It is wholly unacceptable that the matter has proceeded in this fashion,” Munroe said.
“If they had asked Mr. Symonette to attend anytime to be charged, he [would] freely does so.
“He is quite eager for this nonsense to end. You will see in some of these charges, he is a victim by all accounts, so I suppose they are going to list him as a witness.”
Basic human rights
As she sought to determine how long the defendants were in police custody, Ferguson-Pratt asked whether they had been provided meals, to which the defendants claimed they had not.
She invited, Reckley, Symonette, Collie and Vincent to stand and repeated, “The defendants didn’t have a meal?”
Reckley claimed she was confronted by a female police officer in her bedroom, and was not permitted to get dressed properly before being taken into custody around 7:00 a.m.
She said she had to rush to put on a pair of sandals.
The judge asked the prosecution why the defendants had not been provided meals, but the police prosecutor said that was news to him.
The court heard that Symonette was in a holding cell with two other people, but only two meals were provided and he was shared out.
Vincent, who said he packed lunch for work, claimed he was not provided a meal nor given the opportunity to eat his packed lunch.
The prosecutor read a detention report which indicated that Collie was provided a meal at 1:45 p.m., but she denied this.
“They are saying they have not been fed, some from 7:00 a.m. and some from 8:00 a.m.,” Ferguson-Pratt said.
“It is now going on 6 o’clock in the afternoon, and at least two of them are on medication.”
The judge asked the prosecution to produce proof of the meals provided to the defendants.
She also asked what was the “violence” in the defendants returning to court at an agreed time Wednesday.
Miller said he would check.
A 20-minute break was called to allow the prosecution to determine the way forward.
Following the break, the prosecutor asked that the matter return to court at noon today, and advised that the defendants would be housed overnight at the Cable Beach Police Station.
The judge said there had been no expiration of the time that the law allows the defendants to be in police custody and she did not plan to act “outside of her authority”.
She asked that the defendants be provided a meal yesterday evening and this morning before being brought to court, insisting that being given adequate food and access to any medical needs were “basic human rights”.
“I am not asking for any exceptions, but I am asking for basic human rights be afforded to them,” she said.
The judge added, “There is much I can say, but I am restrained.
When Ferguson-Pratt began reading the names of the defendants listed on a document before her, she called the names of two individuals — James Hall and James Wildgoose — who were not present in court.
She said that was another issue.
In addition to Munroe, Jomo Campbell, Owen Wells, and Anthony McKinney, QC, represented Symonette.
Damian Gomez, QC, Philip McKenzie, Carlson Shurland, QC, Renaldo Toote, represent Vincent, Reckley and Collie.